Digital Infrastructure: Overcoming the digital divide in emerging economies

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Series Details 5 April, 2017
Publication Date 05/04/2017
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Since the 1990s when the internet began to be commercialised globally, the debate on how to close the digital divide has attracted widespread attention. In this Policy Brief, the authors review the literature on the digital divide in emerging economies with a view to explaining: 1) how internet connectivity promotes social and economic inclusiveness, efficiency and innovation; 2) why the physical access to the internet alone is insufficient to capture the full benefits of digital technology and what other social conditions should be considered; and 3) how to further connect the unconnected population.

The digital divide prevents societies from harnessing the full benefits that information and communication technologies can deliver. In this context, actions to foster physical access to the internet remain essential, but they are not sufficient to ensure a truly inclusive information society. Therefore, strong leadership is needed at the global and local levels, to ensure more coordinated efforts among governments, local authorities and actors on the ground. Conversely, maintaining the status quo, while technology progressively pervades every sector of the economy, may critically widen disparities across countries and within national territories.

This report offers two sets of policy recommendations: 1) a set of general principles that the G20 should endorse to overcome disparities between emerging and advanced economies; and 2) a set of policy guidelines each nation should follow to bridge the digital divide and foster inclusiveness.

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